Court holds Consumers Power not responsible for natural gas explosion caused by its repaired line
James and Julie Hoffman sued Consumers Power after there home was destroyed in a natural gas explosion. The explosion occurred becasue of a leak in a compression fitting that attached a service pipeline to Consumers' main pipelinein the Hoffman's front yard. The Defendant, Consumers, argued that the compression fitting was negligently manufactured, not negligently installed, and told the Court the case should be dismissed because the repair was installed forty years ago. As such, it argued that it was a "contractor" who should be able to claim immunity under the statute of repose that grants immunity to contractors who make improvements to real property, after ten years of "occupancy or use" of the improvement.
The Hoffmans argued that Consumers was not a "contractor" but rather the owner of this pipeline and right of way--thus not intended to be granted immunity under the statute of repose. It also argued that the statute was never intended to be applied to an entity that owns a hazardous material distibution system--particularly in the case of a "repair" to that system that doesn't consitute a "capital improvement. The Court found against the Hoffmans on all of the issues and overturned the lower court, permanently dismissing the case against Consumers Power.